by Vince Faust, NNPA Newswire

This time of year everybody wants to get next year off to a good start by changing old bad habits. One of the biggest changes most people start is changing their diet. To succeed you need a good plan.

Changing your diet takes patience, persistence and behavior modification. Just losing weight should not be your goal. You want to lose body fat. There’s no simple or quick way to get rid of excess body fat. Once you get rid of it the only way to keep it off is to continue a program, which incorporates healthy eating with aerobic activities and resistance exercises.

Approximately 47.8 percent of African Americans are obese compared to 32.6 percent of whites. 35.1 percent of African-American children ages 2 to 19 are overweight. We need to change our diets to change these numbers.

Once you’ve made the commitment to change you must then set realistic goals. These goals should be long term and short term. Most people with a weight problem want to lose it all on a miracle program within a months or even a few days. This is unrealistic because weight problems don’t happen in a few weeks it occurs over a long period of time. Your long-term goal should be your ultimate goal. Your short-term goals should include the small accomplishments it takes to reach your long-term goal.

Developing healthy eating habits takes meal planning. To do this you must shop wisely. Always have a list of the foods you need when you shop and never shop on an empty stomach. 

The best way to change poor eating habits is to do it one meal at a time. Give yourself a week to ten days for each meal change. Since breakfast is the first meal of the day, start there. Instead of donuts, coffee and snack foods on the run have a piece of fresh fruit and a glass of juice to start your day. Have a glass of juice and one or two pieces of fruit when you get up. After a shower and getting dressed have something more substantial like a bowl of whole grain cereal such as oatmeal or wheat flakes. 

Give yourself a week to ten days to change breakfast then move onto lunch. By lunchtime your body will need a protein such as baked or broiled chicken or fish, beans, egg whites or tuna. If you eat red meat limit your intake to once or twice a week and have only lean cuts of beef. You’ll also need to have one or two servings of green vegetables. One serving equals about half a cup. Green leafy lettuce, steamed broccoli, string beans, cabbage; collard greens and kale are all excellent choices.

Later in the afternoon have a carbohydrate food like whole grain bread, a baked potato or air popped popcorn. This will replace that late afternoon bag of chips or candy bar.

Change your dinner meal in a few more weeks. You can even make dinner two small meals. Have some protein and a vegetable for your first small dinner meal. Later have a light meal of brown rice pilaf or pasta with a vegetable on the side.

Drink water at least fifteen minutes before you eat instead of with your meal. Use less butter, salt, dressings and condiments on your foods so that you gradually learn to enjoy the natural taste of food. 

Social gatherings like holiday outings, luncheons, cookouts and guest can sabotage the most well thought out plan. Instead of eating everything in sight once you get there have several small meals earlier in the day. This will keep you from binging at those social gatherings. Eat slowly. This will give your body time to realize you’re full and you’ll be less likely to overeat.

A Few Tips To Help Change Your Diet:

• Eat fruit and/or drink juice when you wake up instead of coffee and donuts. You should eat or drink 3 servings of fruit daily.

• Have whole grain pancakes with pure maple syrup or other whole grain cereals instead of bacon and eggs for breakfast. You need no less than 2 servings of a whole grain daily.

• Carry your lunch instead of eating out everyday.

• Visit your health food store to see the alternative products they now stock.

• Make sure you have 4 to 6 servings of vegetables daily.

• Drink water between meals instead of soda pop.

• Limit fried foods to once or twice a week.

• Plan your menu for each week, make a shopping list and stick to it.

• Use canola oil instead of vegetable oil for cooking.

• Eat at least 1/3 of your food before late day.

• Eat 4-6 small meals throughout the day (it’s impossible to get what your body needs on 1 meal a day).

• Exercising 3-4 times a week will help you develop a healthy body. Regular exercise should also be a part of any good weight loss program.

• Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.

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